Thursday, June 19, 2014

Martha Died 100 Years Ago This Year,

but there is a lot of talk about using modern scientific methods to bring back extinct species like the passenger pigeon. Thanks to human stupidity, especially in the establishment of commercial hunting of these birds and tearing down their habitat, the species rapidly died out. It once numbered in the billions of birds, but as these idiots killed them off during the latter part of the 19th century, the species could not survive.

I have doubts the bird can ever be replicated because it required huge numbers of birds to sustain its population. Apparently they had trouble reproducing if the population fell below a certain amount.

This is interesting to note:

Examination of the passenger pigeon’s genetic code shows that its population ping-ponged regularly from up to 5 billion to as few as tens of millions, said a study co-authored by Zink in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences released Monday.

The passenger-pigeon population probably swelled, crashed and recovered cyclically over the past million years, based on climate, food and other factors, the study said. By the late 1800s, the bird population may have been in a down cycle that was exacerbated by overhunting and land clearing.

Indeed, the chief causes of the extinction — cutting down Eastern U.S. forests and hunting — were man-made, Zink said. “Passenger pigeons always reached lows like this, it’s just this time their luck ran out because we were around,” Zink said.

By 1900, there we no passenger pigeons left in the wild. By 1914, there was just 29-year-old Martha — named for Martha Washington — at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. People lined up to see her. She was a star.

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